DAVIS, Calif. — Davis natives Trent Yackzan and Patrick Martin were once preschool classmates. Some 25 years later, their playgrounds are a hop farm near Winters and a brewery in Davis. Their building blocks? Fresh, local hops — and a passion to share their region’s bounty.
The result is the Putah Creek Wet Hop Lager, a beer brewed in Yolo County, showcasing regional hops and the teamwork of several Davis natives. These local connections are important for reinvigorating the regional brewing industry, they say.
The beer, a play on the brewery’s flagship California Dry Hop Lager, was brewed with “wet” hops that were picked that morning at Putah Creek Hops near Winters, 12 miles west of the Davis brewery. It’s finished with dry hops from Kuchinski Hop Ranch near Clearlake. The result is a well-balanced, hoppy lager with 6 percent alcohol by volume.
Before Prohibition, the Sacramento region was one of the country’s hops-growing capitals. After the dry spell, few growers returned to the crop. Today, most craft beer features hops from the Pacific Northwest. But the farm-to-fork movement is creating demand for local ingredients.
“It has been decades since fresh hops have been available to California brewers,” Martin said, “and I am humbled to be a part of the revival to bring fresh, local hops back to the area.”
Most beers are flavored exclusively with dried or pellet hops, because the delicate fresh hop flowers degrade quickly. Hop cones right off the vine contain more of the oils and resins that add floral aroma and bitterness to beer. The sooner they get into the brew, the more those flavors shine.
Martin said Putah Creek Wet Hop Lager already his all-time favorite beer. “It’s crisp, refreshing and full of complex and unique aromas not found in any other beer. Hops are very much like grapes, in that the terroir matters. Hops grown in California will be different from hops grown in Washington.”
Last year at harvest, Sudwerk used hops from the same property to create Yolo County’s first vine-to-kettle beer: Resinator Extra Pale Lager. Next year, it plans to add local barley to its annual fresh hop brew. “Every year, we source more local ingredients,” said Yackzan, co-owner of Sudwerk Brewing Co. and grandson of one of its founders.
Those in Davis will have a chance to try the beer at its release party Friday, Sept. 19, at the Sudwerk taproom, The Dock, from 4 to 8 p.m. The family-friendly evening includes live music from Zapato Viejo, along with games like corn hole, Ping-Pong and foosball. Soroptimists will pour Wet Hop Lager at the Wednesday, Sept. 24, Davis Farmers Market, from 4:30 to 8 p.m. With just 20 kegs, it will be on draft at select local accounts, and at a handful of special events, including the Fresh Hop Festival Sept. 26 at the California Automobile Museum, the Farm to Fork Festival in Sacramento on Sept. 27, and Sierra Nevada’s Single, Fresh, Wet & Wild Harvest Festival on Oct. 18 in Chico.
Building on 25 years of family legacy and brewing tradition, Sudwerk Brewing Co. specializes in artisanal craft brews, specifically West Coast craft lagers. Its taproom, The Dock Store, at 2001 Second St., Davis, Calif., is open from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays, 4 to 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, and noon to 6 p.m. on weekends. It offers a rotating menu of experimental and innovative beers, “honest pints” and growler fills, fresh White Labs brewers’ yeast, and good conversation. Learn more at http://sudwerkbrew.com.